2014 NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat. Game 1: Fighting Heat with heat (and Game 2).

I was introduced to the NBA when just a kid. My cousin put on a video featuring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar…as co-pilot Roger Murdoch, in the movie ‘Flying High’, “I’m out there busting my buns out every night… tell your old man to drag Waltman and O’Neir up and down the court for 48 minutes”.

The Professional Athlete moonlighting as a Co-Pilot made an impression and I commenced following ‘NBA action’ on Saturday mornings, in Australia, on the sometimes-basketball Ten Network. It was 1989/90, Kareem retired 15-minutes after I took an interest. To this day, I’ve no idea who Waltman and O’Neir were.

‘The Bulls’ ascended as the team. Was there ever a better logo than the ‘Air Jordan’ dunking man? Or a better number 23 anywhere? I bought the shoes and drank from the Gatorade.

Flash-forward to 1997, I was traveling across the U.S and a friend in Chicago kindly took me to 3 Bulls games. I saw ‘His Air-ness’ Michael Jordan, live at United Centre. My enduring memory is of him gliding across court. At an age when I blithely didn’t appreciate many moments, I knew I was lucky to see this.

My most recent live game was 4 years ago, at the Garden, watching the Knicks against Chicago. Carmelo Anthony led from the front for the Knickerbockers, who had firm control, until a late running of the Bulls. We were endlessly amused by names of Bulls players, Brewer, Boozer and Bogans.

Since then, I’ve travelled less and followed from afar. I’ve noted the disappearance and reappearance of the Charlotte Hornets (‘reappearing’ after New Orleans re-branded itself the ‘Pelicans’[1]). I’ve watched the rise of Indiana and Oklahoma City. Indiana I knew well, having denied the Knicks glory in 1995 (inspired by Reggie Miller[2]), but I admit I barely knew OKC existed until Kevin Durant led them to the finals two years ago. Mostly, I’ve been waiting for the Knicks to win their first championship since 1973.

Game 1:

The 2014 NBA best-of-7 finals series between the winners of the Eastern and Western Conferences – the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs – commenced last Friday. While I coveted being there, I had bigger things on my lap, my 2-week-old boy. I watched on subscription television, while sporadically cluster-feeding formula. Nowhere I’d rather be, Father-Son bonding through sport.

San Antonio (with a 62-20 best record in the regular season) hosted game 1, in front of a voracious Texan crowd. But it was reigning champions, Miami, making a fast start. LeBron James dunked, it was 7-2, and I had my first ‘They can’t be beaten’ thought. San Antonio worked their way back through Tim Duncan and Tony Parker’s ‘pick and roll’ (does not involve the dry residue of the nose) until a classic baulk/blind turn from Dwayne Wade restored Miami ‘s lead by 1.

The early momentum shift came when Argentine Manu Ginobili shot back-to back three pointers for the Spurs, warming the home crowd (who would get warmer) before that most American of anti-climaxes, the time-out.

Wade and LeBron responded for Miami, but San Antonio continued to play with dauntless spirit. Another 3-pointer, 26-20, and the Spurs were four out of six from downtown.

In the 2nd, Patty Mills, described as ‘the little point guard from out of Australia’, scored two. Dwayne Wade spun and Tony Parker floated, nonpareil. Then, with 4 minutes left, the commentators provided the decisive moment, “The air-conditioning in the building has apparently malfunctioned. It is so hot in this place right now and certainly will have an impact on the players.”

I nearly dropped the formula. Cut away to images of fans, fanning themselves with programs.

How does it happen in an NBA final? Same way it was ‘lights out’ for 34 minutes in a recent Super Bowl, or how the vital camera angle painfully eludes us in a goal review system. Incidents and accidents, hints and allegations, incompetence and conspiracy, acts of God and shit out of luck, things we are saddled with. We shrug our shoulders. Somewhere, in a corner office a lawyer sharpens his originating motion. Between the cracks of the contracts, margins and mark-ups, it can be seen where the money does not go.

In the 3rd quarter the malfunctioning air conditioning story overtook the game. Court-side reporter Doris Burke added, “I heard Chris Bosh say that it was like his old high school gym, there’s no air movement in here”. LeBron called to the bench and sat out with a wet towel around his shoulders. Soon after, Bosh took a seat with a bag of ice resting on back of his neck.

The commentators put both sides of the argument. (1) Both teams are dealing with the same steamy situation, (2) Should the game be postponed? This is not how the game should be played.

The game continued. Spurs turnovers were racking up, 9 in the 3rd. Miami took advantage. Commentators put it down to fatigue and perspiration on player’s hands. Doris Burke said it was 88 degrees (or 31 Celsius) near the baseline. LeBron returned, hit a 3-pointer and the Heat led by 4 at the final change.

At the break, Doris Burke interviewed Spurs Head Coach, Gregg Popovich, and asked him about the malfunctioning air conditioning. He responded, “It doesn’t affect us anymore than them. It’s just a bad situation”.

Bosh scored a three-pointer early in the fourth and was also fouled He picked up the extra point and Miami led 86-79, with 9:30 remaining.

A fan in the crowd held up a sign, “We’re from Texas and we can take the Heat”.

7:59 left in it. 38-year-old Duncan laid it up for two and LeBron put his hand up to come off again – cramping, hunching over and sitting down. Wade nailed a jump shot for Miami. I thought they would bring it home, until San Antonio’s Danny Green (not the boxer) hit consecutive 3’s and then dunked, igniting the crowd.

Time out.

Upon resumption, LeBron was sent back in. In a bemusing moment, he drove for two and then couldn’t make it back down court, cramped on the baseline. Miami fouled and LeBron limped off. Done. So were Miami.

In a place as litigious as America, I was surprised the final wasn’t postponed. They should have stopped it. A glitch caused the world’s biggest basketball player to wilt. Not a good look, arguably an unsafe work-place and perhaps even the duty of care owed to fans came into question.

Danny Green put up another 3, followed by a masterly corner 3 from Parker – Spurs 105, Heat 95. LeBron was on his lame walk to the locker room, as the Spurs completed a 31-9 run to the buzzer (this after Miami led by 7, two and a half minutes into the final quarter). Game 1 was San Antonio’s. They like it hot.

The incident spoiled the result, left room for doubt. Did the heat beat the Heat?

The next day, I watched Roughead kick 8 in Tasmania, cogitating how well he’d go in the NBA. Hope he doesn’t go under free agency.

Game 2:

On Monday, Australian time, Game 2 was played in San Antonio. This time the air conditioning worked and LeBron showed no sign of leg cramps, finishing with 35 points and 10 rebounds. Miami won another great contest 98-96 (17 second half lead changes). Series 1-1. Game 3 shifts to Miami this morning, 11:00am AEST.

It’s an ideal time for the 3-hour-long sleep and feed cycle, watching the NBA finals, the Stanley Cup – between the L.A Kings and the New York Rangers – and the FIFA World Cup. When he next wakes, I’ll thank him.


[1] Charlotte relocated to New Orleans in 2001-02. In 2004 the Charlotte Bobcats were set up. In 2013 New Orleans renounced the Hornets name and became the Pelicans and so the Charlotte Bobcats recovered the nickname Hornets and the history of the 1988-2002 Hornets.

[2] If you’re a fan of sports documentaries on begrudging rivalries, as I am, I recommend, ‘Winning Time’: Reggie Miller versus the New York Knicks, directed by Dan Klores (2010).



About Paul Campbell

Lawyer, left footer. Loves the Hawks and follows a few U.S sports.


  1. Paul

    Like the Spurs for the International flavour, not just Mills and Baynes, but Parker, Diaw and Manu Ginobli and Bellinelli

    Like you, I remember the NBA being huge on Channel 10 on a Saturday in the early 90s.

    OKC crept up on me too. I think they are the old Seattle Supersonics

    Spurs good win in Miami to go 2-1 up. Think it will be 4-3 Spurs, bench runs deeper.


  2. Paul Campbell says

    San Antonio win game 4: 107-86. Lead series 3-1. A team has never come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals and it has only happened 8 times in NBA play-off history (8 out of 223).

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